So Not An Expert

Principals who ban lunches from home are nobody's pal

Who in the world thought little kids would eat this for lunch--at school, no less?


Monica Eng, Chicago Tribune / February 17, 2011

The lovely princiPAL at A Little Village Academy and her crappy food service provider, that's who. And, trust me, Elsa Carmona is no longer anyone at the school's pal.

Six years ago, Carmona banned all lunches brought from home. Yep, sacked 'em.

Unless kids have a medical excuse, they must eat what the school serves them. It protects students from their own unhealthful food choices, she says.

Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school. It's about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It's milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception.

Well, that's quite a head this principal has on her shoulders. A very BIG head to think she's more capable of making those decisions for kids than the kids' very own PARENTS.

And I have comments on my Facebook page to back that up. They range from:

Holy poop. -R


Well this is just plain nuts. I understand that there are parents that don't have a clue what a healthy lunch is, but even the healthiest lunch means nothing if its dumped in the garbage uneated and the kid goes home to eat twice as much junk because they are starving. I am so sick of parenting rights in this country being overridden by government and other "official" agencies. If Medinah did this, I'd be homeschooling....... -M


Kids are picky eaters - I wouldn't even eat THAT. I never trust those lunch programs - a lot of hidden sodium. Nothing like a good PBJ on wheat bread!!! - low sugar jelly of course ;) Good for that little boy to stand up for himself! -S


I JUST read this article. I'm glad someone else found it outrageous enough to post here (and hopefully blog about). Seriously, even beyond the total override of a parent's right to choose what their kid eats, junk or not, the cost is a HUGE... issue. It's so much cheaper to brown bag. Really not fair to parents in the middle or lower income brackets, those just above qualifying for free lunch, to have to pay when a homemade lunch would be so much cheaper. The hot lunch food is, quite frankly, gross and isn't really enough for some of the bigger, older kids. It's a great thing for those who can afford it and whose kids will eat it and who don't have the werewithal to make a lunch every day. Me, I'd be raising cain. I still make a PBJ every day for my 16 year At least I know it gets eaten. -L


And what types of preservatives and salts are in these PREPARED school lunches---this is a topic for "So Not an Expert"---my child's lunch at home was ALWAYS more healthy than Medinah's systematic lunch program...How do kids learn to pack healthy if their lunches continue to be pre-prepared for them....... -A

I'll acknowledge that not all parents know what "healthy" means or even care for that matter. Is there even a universal definition of "healthy" food?

Diet is like religion. Everyone believes and practices something different, and everyone thinks their way is the right way. It's a very touchy subject.

(Also worth noting here that sometimes these food service dishes are cooked in plastic--adding another health concern to the mix.)

Some families count calories to watch their waistlines. Some families limit their salt intake. Other families watch out for high fat; some veto sugar. Some are vegetarian. And, still others focus on natural or organic foods.

Yet sometimes even the most health-conscious of parents let their kids eat junk. I consider myself such a parent.

Today I sent my daughters to school with a granola bar, an apple, a clementine, a water bottle (sounds OK so far, but wait for it), and Cup Noodles! Some, including last year's assistant principal, might argue the lack of nutritional value in salt soup.

I agree, OK? So frickin' what. Every now and then something junk foodie won't kill us.

Whatever our diets, one thing I think families can all agree on is that the entree featured on the day a Chicago Tribune reporter visited is slop.

Don't get me wrong. I've certainly tried to pass off a meal here and there to my family as edible.

Speaking of, just the other week, before I flew off to see my mother on Galveston Island, I was involved in a torrid love affair with Mark Bittman. I absolutely love this man's cookbooks, and all things him. (Sorry husband.)

From his newest cookbook, which I checked out from the library, I made dish after dish all week long. My family, it turns out, is not in love with Mark Bittman. In fact, I think it's safe to say they hate the man.

Good thing I didn't actually buy that cookbook.

You might be thinking my kids are jealous of the man stealing so much of their mother's affection, but really it's that they just don't like the unusual combination of flavors in his recipes (think watermelon and feta).

But, and this is a really big but, my family will eat my food--whatever it is I cook. That's the way they were raised. Not every family/mother is so fortunate.

Look at the little boy's reaction to the "enchilada" dish he's supposed to eat. My guess is he's never before seen a lunch that resembles that fancy, healthy school lunch.

Heck, I've never seen a dish that resembles that fancy, healthy school lunch. Enchilada, my behind. I wouldn't touch it and--with the exception of brie, goat cheese, and goat's milk (basically anything goat related)--I eat a-ny-thing.

That, my friends, is saying something.

My guess (and the only defense I can think of) is this principal does not have children of her own. Being involved with the public schools for so many years has taught me to spot the difference between those teachers and administrators who have children and those who do not.

It's quite a talent, I know, but it's been honed nonetheless. Most childless teachers/administrators (and I say most, because this is certainly not true of them all) shall I say it...persnickety, and...well, you get the feeling they're a little...on the judgmental side.

Whatever the reason, it's just plain wrong to make kids eat what's served at school. Most of them will starve.

I cannot help but wonder the following:

  • How well do students who are hungry learn?
  • Have test scores improved since this brain child was introduced?
  • Are these children now of a more healthy weight?
  • Do the principal and faculty eat the processed food they serve?
  • How do people afford this?

My guess, for whatever it's worth, is that the answers are not so positive.

A) Any rational person can deduce kids do not learn well when their stomachs are grumbing from hunger. My kids have tried a similar looking hot lunch and come home famished. Mom is not at school telling them to eat their vegetables and so they do not.

Though the meals are specially designed to meet the nutritional requirements of the kids who eat them, unless the kids are eating the ENTIRE meal, they are not getting the proper nutrition and amount of food they need.

B) No, test scores have not improved significantly, or at all. But, there is some other excuse for that.

C) No. After fasting through lunch, their bodies have gone into starvation mode, causing their bodies to hold onto fat as a precautionary measure. Add to that, that they are (again) starving and devour any food--healthy or not--they can find once they are home, and in large quantities.

D) No, because only the school staff can be trusted to bring healthful choices to lunch.

E) Rather than fund their saving accounts, parents who don't qualify for free lunches dole out hundreds of dollars a month to pay for previously frozen, processed Encor-like meals.

(I tried the meatloaf once when I worked as the lunch lady and that is what it reminded me of.)

Like most of the lunches parents (or kids) pack themselves, mine cost about $1 - $1.50, depending on whether or not I throw in a container of yogurt. We all know those ain't cheap.

That concludes for now my predictions and rant on mandatory school hot lunches.

For the love of these kids, I hope I stand to be corrected.

Your thoughts?

For more commentary on the topic, be sure to read Bye, Bye Brown Bag and Brown Bag Lunch...May It Rest In Peace.

Don't forget to share your news, and follow So not an Expert on Twitter and Facebook, or by subscribing by email in the box below. Contact me at

Bookmark and Share

Read more:



Recent Posts


Leave a comment


Matthew House, J.D. said:

default userpic local-auth auth-type-mt

I have posted two videos about this topic, because it really does infuriate me as a supporter of parents’ rights, kids’ rights, and the development of autonomous families. and

Please view them; I hope you will agree with my logic.

It’s very unfortunate that a few parents’ bad food choices have led Ms. Carmona to conclude that she may summon the righteousness to substitute her judgment for that of the parents. My mother could have packed a far healthier lunch than any served at the school. Furthermore, Ms. Carmona’s generalizations are mind-blowing. She sweepingly states that it is better nutritionally for the kids to eat at school. I guarantee you that 9 times out of 10, my mom’s lunches would have been healthier, and the other time they would have been just as healthy and certainly not less. She implies that if the kids didn’t drink milk from the cafeteria, they would be bringing Coke as a general rule. I highly doubt it. Even if so, how about banning soft drinks or any kind of drink that isn’t 100% milk or juice. Ban potato chips while you’re at it — I don’t care. But it is simply ridiculous to suggest that all food packed by all parents for all kids on all days is somehow always substandard to what the school prepares every day with no exceptions to that rule.

Jackie Tithof Steere said:


I agree and I'm glad to hear someone else is riled up about it. I am surprised it took six years of treating kids and their parents like this for us to hear/read about it. I'll be sure to check out your links. Thanks for reading and commenting!

The Muffin Lady said:

default userpic local-auth auth-type-mt

As a child I would not have eaten that nor would I as an adult. I thought it was a Ravioli dish, it definately does not look like an Enchilada. ICK! Does anyone know what is in those baggies?

This article really does help present the current trends in school foods and the mandates of such that have grown out of control. If a mom/dad/grandparent or caretaker wants to provide thier child with a bagged lunch then so be it as a parent should have the privilege to do! A Principal Job is not as ENFORCER, but as LEADER!

Also to the mom who spoke of yogurt and the cost of the container--- use 1/2 cup plain yogurt, add 2 tablespoons or more fruits of choices, maybe a 1/2 teaspoon of honey and once refrigerated and cold place it in a plastic container or cleaned out former yogurt container and pack in the to-go school lunch. This brings the cost down considerably as well as removes the high fructose sweetner found in most flavored yogurts. Also know that lower in fat yogurts usially have more salt and sugar added, thus it is best for health and flavior to purchase larger containers of plain yogurt and flavor accordingly. Larger containers also help saves funds.

Jackie Tithof Steere said:


Yogurt lady thanks you for the tip. That is a good one. I've started making my own plain yogurt in a crockpot and while I think it is very good, not all of my kids think it is so tasty--unless it's hidden in a smoothie or mashed potatoes or passed off as sour cream (after draining it). I have yet to find, however, a leak proof container (or reusable water bottle) for their backpacks. Many a textbook or library book have been ruined by leaky packaging. That's why I break down and by the disposable water bottles (we have well water) and the containers of yogurt. They don't seem to burst.

I do not know what is inside those baggies--hopefully some yummy fruit the boy already ate.

I agree, all these mandates are out of control. Reminds me of the police officers who harassed the girl scouts over cookie sales. I understand fair is fair, but let's exercise a bit of common sense.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Leave a Comment?

Some HTML is permitted: a, strong, em

What your comment will look like:


what will you say?

Most Active Pages Right Now on Facebook

So Not An Expert on Facebook